Ask The Locals: Dwight and Mary Rachel Dudley

click to enlarge Ask The Locals: Dwight and Mary Rachel Dudley - David Doonan
David Doonan
Ask The Locals: Dwight and Mary Rachel Dudley

It seems like many of Tampa Bay’s power couples work in similar circles, be they local politics or the arts. Longtime St. Petersburg residents Dwight and Mary Rachel Dudley break that mold.

She is an actress in film and television with a growing resume; she counts Fantastic Four among her recent titles. She auditions for many roles from her home computer, and travels as needed.

He is a Democratic state representative whose district includes St. Pete and other parts of eastern and central Pinellas County. A criminal lawyer by trade, he’s known for his outspokenness on issues like the environment, consumer advocacy and health care when he’s in Tallahassee for the legislative session.

The Dudleys have three children, two of them grown. Both come from quite large families, so in addition to knowing the best places to eat and visit, they can also tell you where to find the best deals — and where to have that rare splurge.

“Because I was raised in a family of nine kids, Mary was raised in a family of eight, we look for specials, we look for good value, we look for good deals,” Rep. Dudley said. “It’s kind of fun.”

Best place to see yourself (and others) on screen: MUVICO SUNDIAL. Mrs. D.: “It’s a sweet setup there. We love it there...Sometimes they’ll show Broadway. Live Broadway shows. You can buy tickets to see a live production in a theater, like a live Broadway play.”
Where to catch a bite before the show: Mrs. D.: “We love GRATZZI, we love CASSIS, BIRCHWOOD for dinner, and we love THE VINOY.”
Best sushi place: HOOKS. Mrs. D.: “Oh, my gosh, it’s great...We were going when we knew Hook, when he was alive and...he was always such a wonderful, jovial guy. Dwight met Hook when he first opened Hook’s restaurant, and what a wonderful and beautiful and jovial and great soul he was....and you’ve got to get the heavenly sauce.” Mr. D.: "Godzilla roll."
Best Thai: SIAM GARDEN. Mr. D.: “That cashew chicken.” Mrs. D: “And the Tom Ka Gai. And when the kids were little they would get the chicken satay.”
Best place for a sweet tooth: CASSIS. Mrs. D: “Great atmosphere. The Cassis bakery is a must. Their chocolate croissants.” Mr. D. “I get oatmeal raisin cookies. I love them. [They’re] like $1.05 for an oatmeal raisin cookie. Good value. Brioche, the almond brioche. The gelato.” Mrs. D.: “They pour their passion into the product.”
Best Cuban (St. Pete): Mrs. D.: “BODEGA on Central.”
Best place to buy Cuban bread: MAURICIO FAEDO. Mr. D.: “You can watch them bake Cuban bread. It’s really cool. It’s old school. They’ve been doing it forever.”.
Best Cuban (Tampa): LA LECHONERA. Mr. D.: “I kid you not, for $3.65, you get the most massive Cuba sandwich. And then they have a steam table with everything in the world and you buy a lunch for, like, five bucks. I eat three times out of that thing. It’s massive. It’s a great value, and delicious food.”
Best lunch place: Mrs. D.: “MAZZARO for lunch is, like, the bomb. What a phenomenal place that is. Not only great food, but ambiance. Just hanging out in Mazzarro is so cool. And you’ve got to drink the coffee when you’re there.” Runner-up: BANYAN TREE.
Best Vietnamese: ALESIA RESTAURANT. Mrs. D. “Great ambiance, the food is very light and delicious, very funky-cool.”
Where to talk politics over lunch. ACROPOLIS. Mr. D.: “It’s so convenient to the district office and law office. I like to go to CICCIO (CALI), too.”
Best splurge (Tampa). CHARLEY'S STEAK HOUSE. Mrs. D.: “Every time I book a movie, we take the family out for dinner [there]. And that’s our celebration.”
Best cocktailing: Mrs. D.: “MANDARIN HIDE is beautiful.” (Get the Moscow Mule). “But also the rooftop at the Birchwood [CANOPY] is one of our favorites as well. You can’t beat that view.”
Best poutine: THE VINOY PORCH BAR. Mr. D.: “I have a picture of my brother sucking down the gravy with a straw, he liked it so much. I’m not into fried foods, I’m not into junk food, but this was really off the charts.”
Band to check out: THE SURFING RACCOONS. Mrs. D.: “When they perform, they bring the house down. People go nuts for the Surfing Raccoons.”
Best election night party venue: RENO’S DOWNTOWN.
Where to host a swanky campaign fundraiser: 400 BEACH DRIVE. Mrs. D. “Great appetizers. Great place. Perfect facility for a fundraiser. It showcased St. Pete beautifully.”
Best low-key Friday night: ST. PETE SHUFFLEBOARD COURTS. Mrs. D.: “What a great atmosphere, and the history! You’re drinking and eating with your friends while you’re playing such a fun game.”
Best night out: Jazz musician NATE NAJAR at THE PALLADIUM. “We were blown away by the performance of the jazz musicians, and the sound and the character and the history of the Palladium.”
Best live theatre: AMERICAN STAGEfreeFALL. STRAZ. JOBSITE. Mrs. D.: “American Stage in the park: always a must in May. Under the stars, and just watching the pros up there. Oh, it’s just awesome.”
Best offbeat activity: Improv classes, AMERICAN STAGE/PATEL CONSERVATORY. Mrs. D.: “So much fun, and so great for people in general no matter what they do in life.”
Best downtown music venue: ALE AND THE WITCH. Mrs. D.: “The music flows and fills downtown and draws people in. That’s a go-to.” (Also: JANNUS LIVE.)
Best cinematic backdrop: CRESCENT LAKE PARK. Mrs. D.: “We shot (a short film) for three days, and it’s a little romance about a couple that’s having a picnic. And then we brought in a baby at the end. The sunset is gorgeous there.”
Best day trip: CHASSAHOWITZKA SPRINGS, RAINBOW SPRINGS, WAKULLA SPRINGS. Mrs. D.: “There’s something so special and so magical about the springs. And when you go onto that water and the temperature is so invigorating and beautiful. We love spring hopping. Everybody who comes to Florida should do that.”
Best weekend getaway. THE ALDEN. Mrs. D.: “It’s great when you stay right on the beach and we’re in our own element. It’s just so beautiful.”
Best camping spot: Mr. D.: “We’ve camped many times on SHELL KEY. It’s really, really cool. Waking up in the morning with the birds. It’s so beautiful.”
Best place to scope out housewares: CASA DI MAZZARO. “You’ve got to hang in there for three hours to take it all in. Awesome stuff there.”
Best shop: RENO BEACH. Mrs. D.: “It’s like a really cool, funky store that has all kinds of stuff that you don’t necessarily associate with surfing, even jewelry.”
Local artist to check out: LANCE RODGERS. “We love his work. Lance is so wickedly talented.”
Best place to browse: “We love walking around ST. PETE SATURDAY MORNING MARKET...We buy sunflowers, great vegetables and fruits there. And the food. And the bands.”

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